June 25, 2018
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Deer Isle community waits, hopes for answers about disappearance of fishermen

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

STONINGTON, Maine — This island community is waiting and hoping for answers about what happened to the Foxy Lady II, its captain and crewman.

“We all really hope we get some answers soon and some closure,” Brad Eaton of Deer Isle said Saturday morning at the Stonington Lobster Co-op. “It’s a real risky job they do.”

Some answers may come from an investigation launched last week by the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigations.

“Typically after a vessel is lost, there is a formal investigation to try to understand, as best we can, what happened,” Petty Officer Robert Simpson, who is with the Coast Guard’s Public Information Office in Boston, said Saturday.

It could take up to a year for the residents of Deer Isle and Stonington to get the answers they crave.

Wally “Chubby” Gray Jr., 26, the captain, and Wayne Young, 50, both of Deer Isle are presumed “lost at sea,” the Coast Guard has said. The 45-foot scalloper Foxy Lady II left Gloucester, Mass., on Dec. 15 for a day of fishing. It was scheduled to return that evening.

When the vessel wasn’t back by the morning of Dec. 17, the captain’s girlfriend called the Coast Guard to report it missing. The search was called off Wednesday after a survival capsule that did not appear to have been used was found Tuesday in a marshy area of the Saugus River, north of Boston. Some fishing gear, which may or may not have been from the Foxy Lady II, also was found, washed up about 30 miles to the south on Nantasket Beach in Hull, Mass.

For the fisherman who live on Deer Isle, not being able “to do something,” such as aid in the search for the Foxy Lady II and the men aboard, has been difficult, Eaton said.

“When something like this happens, everybody just talks to people, tries to do something like go out and look for someone,” he said. “That’s human nature and that’s what’s been really hard for these guys. The winds have been blowing 35 to 45 miles an hour every day. You just can’t go out in weather like that.”

“You never get used to it,” Sherri Robinson of Stonington said Saturday morning as she waited on customers at the Harbor Cafe. “The worst thing is when you can’t bring them home. There’s no closure.”

Robinson said Carol Gray, the mother of the captain, is from Gloucester and the Gray men have fished offshore there for many years.

“Chubby has been on fishing boats since he was 3,” Robinson said. “He was young, but an avid, experienced fisherman.”

The Rev. Stephen York, pastor of the Stonington United Methodist Church, said Sunday that the families of the men have asked the media to respect their privacy.

The community living on the island of Deer Isle has rallied to support the families and each other, the minister said in a telephone interview.

“The community identifies itself as an island and the people refer to themselves as islanders,” York said. “This island is a destination. People who come here, come here with intent. They don’t just drive by or through as people do Camden.”

The minister said the people on the island comprise what Kentucky poet, novelist and essayist Wendell Berry would call “an authentic community.”

“This community involves both the living and the dead,” he said. “It is not just about place, it is also about the people of that place.”

Stonington, York said, is like a place described in one of Berry’s novels.

“When one suffers, we all suffer,” he said. “When one experiences joy, we all experience joy.”

Fisherman Lee Pappianne described the people who inhabit Deer Isle and Stonington as “a small, tight-knit community on a large island.”

“It’s a tragedy,” the Deer Isle resident said. “People have been in shock for a while.”

Their disappearance so close to Christmas has added to the community’s anguish and will affect how the missing men’s loved ones experience the holiday for years, Eaton said.

“This is supposed to be a special time of year, not a time for bad memories” he said.

A candlelight vigil, organized by the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, was scheduled to be held for the men at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Gloucester Fishermen’s Memorial in Gloucester, Mass., the Gloucester Times reported Saturday.

Angela Sanfillipo, president of the organization, told the Gloucester Times that the men were well known in town.

“Just because they don’t live in Gloucester, that doesn’t mean they’re not our fisherman,” she said.

Funds in Maine and Massachusetts have been set up to benefit the family members of the lost men.

Donations may be sent to: Fishermen’s Fund, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, 25 Church St., Deer Isle 04627 and the Foxy Lady II Fund, Gloucester Bank, 160 Main St., Gloucester, MA 01930.

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